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The Trials and Tribulations of Terry Gene Bollea

The Trials and Tribulations of Terry Gene Bollea

With fierce body slams and an Atomic Leg Drop, Terry Gene Bollea (aka Hulk Hogan) wrestled his way to the top ranks of celebrity stardom and Hulkamania. Hulk Hogan dominated World Wrestling Federation (WWF) opponents André the Giant, The Iron Sheik, and The Undertaker. His bombastic persona enthralled hordes of faithful fans and followers. According to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), “Hogan was soon seen everywhere—television, cartoons, movies, records, and lunch boxes—but he was a part of the steroid scandal in the WWF, and quietly left the organization” (2017). Despite sundry adventures and misadventures, the Hulkster had the ability to take a punch, shake it off, and somehow land squarely on his ponderous feet.

His most recent misadventure was a sordid sex scandal that threatened to further castigate a sullied career filled with the bitter and the sweet. In 2012, Gawker Media posted a nearly two-minute video of Hogan having sex with Heather Cole (Lombardo, 2016). Cole, who was married to radio shock jock Todd “Bubba the Love Sponge” Clem at the time, said, during a nearly two-hour deposition, that she had sex with the wrestling legend four times at the request of her husband. Neither Cole nor Hogan knew that Clem was recording their intimate behavior.

Hogan filed suit against Gawker Media, maintaining that the site invaded his privacy. Hogan asked for $100 million in damages (Lombardo, 2016). Gawker maintained that the First Amendment protected its 2012 publication of the footage; due in part to how much Hogan has openly discussed his sex life with various media (Kludt, 2016).

Entertainment news website The Wrap wrote, 
After a ten-day trial, a jury in Florida found in favor of Hulk Hogan in his lawsuit against Gawker Media for $115 million in a case that has implications for media in the age of the Internet. 
Following six hours of deliberation on Friday, the jury found that Hogan suffered severe emotional distress over the publication of segments of a sex tape featuring him having sex with a friend’s wife, and that his privacy was invaded by publication of the footage (Kenneally, 2016). 

 The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988

 Hogan’s career was always one of controversy and melodrama. In an earlier and relatively obscure courtroom drama in bucolic Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Hogan was, once again, caught right in the middle. The trial, serving as a test case for a 1988 steroid law, was the beginning of the government’s attempt to control the use of performance-enhancing steroids. It immediately became a media sideshow with anticipated confrontation between steroid users and law enforcement (Furek, 1993). 

In the 1980s, “the sale of anabolic-androgenic steroids for nonmedical purposes became illegal under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act” (“History of,” 2011). Futhermore, “The Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990 added anabolic steroids to the federal schedule of controlled substances, thereby criminalizing their nonmedical use by those seeking muscle growth for athletic or cosmetic enhancement. It places steroids in the same legal class [Schedule III] as barbiturates, ketamine, and LSD precursors” (Collins, 2005).    
The Anti-Drug Abuse Act rapidly assumed a central role in the WWF. In an emotionally charged trial, Assistant US Attorney Theodore Smith III argued that Dr. George Zahorian III, age forty-three, acted as a drug dealer and not a physician when he sold anabolic steroids and other controlled substances to professional wrestlers and weightlifters from the WWF (O’Sullivan, 2015; “Titangate,” 2012). 

 Dr. Zahorian, a urologic surgeon who served as the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission’s physician at wrestling matches, was charged with eight counts of distributing steroids, one count of possession with intent to deliver steroids, four counts of delivering prescription painkillers and other controlled substances, and one count of possessing the substances with the intent to deliver (“Titangate,” 2012). A New York Times article about the trial stated, “The government tried to show that Vince McMahon’s Titan Sports Corporation had illicitly provided him with anabolic steroids,” charging that “. . . Mr. McMahon provided steroids to his wrestlers to build up their physiques and thus make them more appealing to audiences” (“Hulk Hogan,” 1994). 

Dr. Zahorian confirmed the testimony of professional wrestlers Rick Martel, Roddy Piper, Brian Blair, and Dan Spivey, who admitted they purchased steroids from Dr. Zahorian after such sales became illegal in November 1988 (“Titangate,” 2012). All four wrestlers said that they ordered steroids over the phone, and then received them by Federal Express. None of the wrestlers were charged because steroid use was not illegal in the period covered by the indictment. 

Smith urged the jury of nine women and three men to concentrate on the allegations against Dr. Zahorian, and not on the circus-like hoopla surrounding the high-profile wrestlers. “If anyone has any illusions about professional wrestling being a pure sport . . . we may burst your bubble,” Smith stated to the jury (Furek, 1993).

“John H. Doe”

WWF champion Hulk Hogan, the most successful and best-known figure in the game at the time, was testifying under immunity from prosecution. Prior to the trial beginning, he was designated as “John H. Doe” (“Titangate,” 2012). The government was not going after him or his fellow wrestlers; the prosecution was betting the house against Dr. Zahorian and Vince McMahon.  

As the journalist Weldon T. Johnson noted, “Justice Department investigators would later uncover documentation indicating Zahorian ‘sold steroids and drugs to forty-three pro wrestlers, thirty-seven of whom were employed by McMahon’s WWF when deliveries were made,’ many of them without even the semblance of a prescription” (Wilson & Johnson, 2003; O’Sullivan, 2015).

According to the aforementioned New York Times article, 

Under questioning by prosecutor Sean O’Shea, Mr. Bollea . . . said that steroid use “was fairly common” among wrestlers working for the World Wrestling Federation in the 1980s. He said that while touring for the WWF, he would call Emily Feinberg, then Mr. McMahon’s executive secretary, “and ask her to place an order for me with Dr. Zahorian.” . . . Mr. Bollea . . . said that when the steroid orders arrived at Titan Sports headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, he would “pick them up along with my paycheck, fan mail or whatever” (“Hulk Hogan,” 1994). 
Said Hogan in his book, My Life Outside the Ring
Dr. Zahorian was a real nice guy . . . He was the man who had whatever we needed. He’d show up in the locker rooms with his two little black briefcases full of testosterone, Anavar, growth hormone, pain pills. He’d give us a hundred Valium in a little unmarked matchbook-type container if we needed them. You could always call ahead so he’d have what you needed whenever you blew through town (Hogan & Dagostino, 2009).       
The New York Times article about Hogan’s testimony stated, “Defense lawyers, in cross-examination, sought to show that Hogan had been using the steroids for nearly fourteen years and that it had been an entirely personal action” (“Hulk Hogan,” 1994).

According to a biography of Hogan, 

Under oath, Hogan admitted he had been using steroids from 1975 to 1989, before they were outlawed. He denied, however, that McMahon had sold him steroids or injected him. Ultimately, both counts against McMahon of steroid distribution were dismissed, thanks in large part to Hogan’s testimony (“History,” 2009). 

 Hogan later recollected, 

But at the time, every wrestler I knew was on steroids. . . . The most commonly prescribed steroids were testosterone, decadurabolin, and Dianabol. They were part of my generation. I’m not making excuses, but they were everywhere. And a lot of that had to do with what we knew about them, which obviously wasn’t enough. . . . I never had a question about whether I would take them. It was part of my daily regimen. Did you take a shower? Yeah. Did you brush your teeth? Yeah. Did you take your steroids? Yeah. Okay, let’s go. That was the deal. It was how I lived (Hogan & Friedman, 2003). 
Dr. Zahorian claimed he was unaware of the new steroid law, but his defense was rapidly falling apart: 
Prosecution testimony established that there was no medical examination before prescriptions were issued, or supervision during cycles, and according to the testimony of [wrestler] Billy Graham, [Zahorian] never gave any guidelines on dosage. It took a mere three hours for the jury to convict him. There was very little doubt. Zahorian was sentenced on December 27, 1991 to three years in prison and fined $12,700 (“Titangate,” 2012). 
Although the case of Dr. Zahorian investigated the crimes of one solitary man, it is obvious that he was a willing pawn of the WWF organization and a larger cadre of individuals, all interconnected by their use of steroids for nonmedical, cosmetic purposes. It was his courtroom trial that began the march against performance-enhancing drugs and a trial that, curiously, placed little guilt at the feet of the WWF’s Vince McMahon and his star wrestling champion, Hulk Hogan.
Collins, R. (2005). The Anabolic Steroid Control Act: The wrong prescription. Retrieved from https://thinksteroids.com/articles/anabolic-steroid-control-act-wrong-prescription/
Furek, M. W. (1993). The strange case of Dr. George Zahorian III. Steele Jungle Publications, 2(3).
“History and biography of Hulk Hogan.” (2009). Retrieved from http://www.wrestlerbiographies.com/hulk-hogan/history-and-biography-of-hulk-hogan
“History of steroid use.” (2011). Retrieved from http://www.intheknowzone.com/substance-abuse-topics/steroids/history.html
“Hulk Hogan, on witness stand, tells of steroid use in wrestling.” (1994). The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/1994/07/15/nyregion/hulk-hogan-on-witness-stand-tells-of-steroid-use-in-wrestling.html
Hogan, H., & Dagostino, M. (2009). Hulk Hogan: My life outside the ring. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.
Hogan, H., & Friedman, M. J. (2003). Hollywood Hulk Hogan. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. 
Internet Movie Database (IMDB). (2017). Hulk Hogan: Biography. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001356/bio 
Kenneally, T. (2016). Hulk Hogan wins $115 million in Gawker sex tape lawsuit. Retrieved from http://www.thewrap.com/hulk-hogan-wins-sex-tape-lawsuit-against-gawker-media/
Kludt, T. (2016). Hulk Hogan’s partner on sex tape is emotional in taped testimony. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2016/03/16/media/hulk-hogan-gawker-tape-heather-cole/index.html
Lombardo, K. (2016). The Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker legal saga, explained. Sports Illustrated. Retrieved from https://www.si.com/more-sports/hulk-hogan-gawker-sex-tape-lawsuit-racism-explained
O’Sullivan, D. (2015). The forgotten steroid trial that almost brought down Vince McMahon. Retrieved from https://sports.vice.com/en_us/article/pg5n3z/the-forgotten-steroid-trial-that-almost-brought-down-vince-mcmahon
“Titangate (part one): The true story behind the scandals that rocked the WWF between 1991 and 1992.” (2012). Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/notes/piledriver-wrestling-net/titangate-part-one-the-true-story-behind-the-scandals-that-rocked-the-wwf-betwee/464076513637661/
Wilson, J., & Johnson, W. T. (2003). Chokehold: Pro wrestling’s real mayhem outside the ring. Bloomington, IN: Xlibris.
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